Photo by: Michael Tureski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Boston Bruins (2nd in Atlantic, 49-24-9, 107 points)
Toronto Maple Leafs (3rd in Atlantic, 46-28-8, 100 points)
Game 1: Thursday, April 11th – TOR @ BOS
Game 2: Saturday, April 13th – TOR @ BOS
Game 3: Monday, April 15th – BOS @ TOR
Game 4: Wednesday, April 17th – BOS @ TOR
Game 5: Friday, April 19th – TOR @ BOS
Game 6: Sunday, April 21st – BOS @ TOR
Game 7: Tuesday, April 23rd – TOR @ BOS
Bruins won 3-1
Nov 10: TOR @ BOS … 5-1 W for BOS
Nov 26: BOS @ TOR… 4-2 W for TOR
Dec 08: TOR @ BOS… 6-3 W for BOS
Jan 12: BOS @ TOR… 3-2 W for BOS
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Boston beat the Leafs 3-1 in their season series and recent history suggests that the Toronto Maple Leafs struggle against the Boston Bruins especially when they meet in the playoffs. Leaf Nation still has not forgotten that series back in 2013 when the Leafs blew a 4-1 lead and lost in overtime against Boston during game seven in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals. Five years after that in 2018 (last season), the Leafs and Bruins met again in the playoffs and the two teams battled it out in another game seven, this time in the first round. Toronto was leading 4-3 heading into the third period and the Bruins came back to pull off another upsetting game seven victory against the Leafs.
Lots has changed since that game last year though. The young and skilled Leaf team has more experience heading into the playoffs this year and they also added some new and important faces in their locker room like defenseman Jake Muzzin and forward John Tavares.
Be-LEAF it or not, Toronto has not blown a lead heading into the third period and lost during regulation since last year’s game seven loss to the Bruins during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The only time the Leafs lost this season after leading a game heading into the third period was one time in an OT loss against the Vancouver Canucks on March 6th. Obviously the Toronto Maple Leafs have not had much of an issue closing out games this season and if they can find a way to start games strong and get a lead early against the Bruins, they could have a good shot at winning this series.
The Boston Bruins are also a very talented team but unlike the Leafs they like to play a much tougher and more physical game. As a result of their gritty playing style, the Bruins sit in the sin bin a lot (second most penalty minutes in the league this season with 797 PIM) but they are also extremely good at drawing penalties (814 PIM drawn this season which is the most by any team). The Leafs, on the other hand, do not like to play in rough and gritty games. They have the least penalty minutes in the league this season (503 PIM) and have the least penalty minutes drawn (549 PIM).
We should expect some of Bruins like Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara to bully the Leafs in this series to get in their heads and throw them off their game. If the Bruins lure the Leafs into their style of play, they probably have a very good shot at beating the Leafs in the first round.
The X-Factor in this series will come down to the style of play. If the Bruins manage to get Toronto involved in a physical and rough game they could probably manage to come out on top. If the Leafs manage to stick to their pacey and skillful style of play and Boston adapts to the Leafs playing style, the Leafs should be able to win the series.
Prediction: It is probably easier for the Bruins to get the Leafs in a gritty and physical game rather than the Leafs getting the Bruins to play in a more skillful game so I predict the Bruins will take this series in six or seven games.
We shall expect a long and heated series between the Leafs and Bruins and this could be one of the more entertaining match-ups we will witness in the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.